When I think of beers that formed and informed my drinking experience, few are more important than Franklin’s Bitter. I first came across it at The Gardner’s Arms, and it was a wonderful beer, not too strong, respectably balanced but wonderful hop flavours; this was one of the first craft beers in the UK. An excellent example of how much flavour can be packed into a low-gravity ale. I was introduced to the beer by my dad and his old mate Tommy Thomas, both founder members of the Leeds branch of CAMRA, and both huge fans of the beer. At some point, Tommy introduced me to Sean Franklin, who showed me the brewery for the first time – nothing that impressive, but it was a real brewery producing very real ale.
Soon after, I went to university in the Midlands. One day when I rang home, my dad said to me “Sean’s sold the brewery. Guess who to?” I replied “Well I can only think of three people; I know it wasn’t me, I’m guessing it wasn’t you, so it must be Tommy”. And of course it was. Under Tommy’s ownership, beer quality varied. So did the brew itself; I remember one batch brewed at OG 1058. “Don’t tell the taxman!” was the exhortation. Quite nice it was, too, and would sell well today. But when he got it right, it was still that wonderful nectar, a beer that linked traditional bitters to modern hop juices, and a testament to Sean’s skill.
Several years later when I got married, Tommy gave us a kilderkin of Franklin’s as a wedding present. Wonderful.
After Tommy’s death, the brewery was bought and moved to Sussex, and still produces some decent pints; but that pioneering brew is history.